Outagamie County

 

The Township of Grand Chute was not the only government for the people of the Fox River Valley. As Lawrence University was rising from the wilderness, other changes were underway. On May 29, 1848, the Territory of Wisconsin was dissolved and Wisconsin officially joined the union as the thirtieth state. With statehood, the men of the Grand Chute area could elect representatives to the state legislature (women would not get the vote until the next century). In 1851, one of those legislators, State Senator Theodore Conkey, introduced a bill to divide Brown County in half, east to west. From the western part, Conkey proposed a new county to be called "Utaghamie." This was a common practice at the time. As settlers moved into Wisconsin and created their own little communities, counties were being carved out across the state. Conkey's bill passed through the legislature easily, although at one point the name of the county was changed from "Utaghamie" to "Fox." Then, against Conkey's wishes, the name was changed again to "Outagamie." In that form, with the Town of Grand Chute listed as the county seat, the bill was approved on February 17, 1851.

That April, the first elections were held for county officers. The first county board met on April 18, 1851, in Appleton, at the home and hotel of R.P. Edgerton. From the six elected supervisors, George Robinson was chosen as chairman and Lorenzo Darling as clerk. George Grignon was elected county treasurer, and Charles Turner as county surveyor. The first business was an official request to Brown County for all records of the land that was now in Outagamie County.

Plans were also discussed for the first county courthouse and jail. That building was finally constructed in 1855, on the same site as the present courthouse (which was built in 1942).

The Outagamie County government of the mid-1800's dealt with many of the same problems that it faces today. In that first year of the county's operation, votes were taken on taxes, salaries, and the purchasing of equipment. Debates were held on the condition of roads and bridges, other public improvements, and disputes between townships. There was even a payment of $40.12 to assist the poor in Kaukauna. Some things have changed, however. In that first year, the county established a ten dollar bounty for the scalp of each wolf killed in Outagamie County. By 1855, with bears added to the bounty list, the county was paying out $270 a year for animal scalps.